By PAUL MINGA
My first ever visit to Northern was as college student in 1995 after receiving a scholarship to take up studies for certificate in Tropical Agriculture at the then Popondetta Agricultural College is about twenty five years ago from now.
The institution name has been changed to Vudal University after it was upgraded to university level. However, I could still remember that time as an excited typical boy.
I took a breathtaking Air Niugini Fokker 28 flight out of Mt Hagen Kagamuga Airport to Port Moresby’s Jackson Airport for a stopover.
From there I made transit – taking an Air Niugin Dash 8 connection flight out of Port Moresbyand made a touch down at Girua Airport – the land of Oro Kaiva which at times known as ‘Cowboy Country’.
Upon arrival into the province that boasted of the huge bird winged butterfly I was bewildered sighting oil palm trees for the first time as a typical highlander.
Seeing oil palm trees for the first time was as fascinating to me as I usually heard about this coastal people’s cash crop plant which l usually saw its pictures in books or magazines.
I was lost for words when coming across huge palm estates belonging to OPIC, Higaturu Oil Palm and the NBOPL that were grown on massive vast area of land in the province.
From my sight what further as fascinating – the palms were grown in rows that were equally distance apart appeared real impressive and spectacular to my sight.
I was wondering at first how the palm growers and plantation workers harvest the ripen fruits from the older blocks which had trees that were about 20 – 30 metres high.
Well, that is what l thought upon seeing very tall palm trees for the first time but l was told that a special cutting knife attached to long iron stick made of several extensions usually used to cut the fruits down from very tall trees.
This sounded as rather fascinating to my ears during my first ever visit to Northern and in seeing oil palm trees for the first time in 1995.
Anyway, something more I found about Northern, I saw that the land of the Kaivas from as far as Oro Bay to Girua Airport and town including the other surrounding town areas were located on a flat and fertile land.
But as with the fertility and richness of the soil it is the same for every other part of the province as a result of the eruption of Mt Lamington scattering its magma to every corner of the entire province.
As a result of the soil fertility, oil palms happened to grow so huge and healthy.
To confirm the soil fertility, you can find out from the size and look of the palm trees and what the land produces which the local farmers sell in town markets. That is the different garden vegetables and fruits that are grown from the rich and fertile soil.
I have been to several towns and cities markets in PNG but would say Popondetta is bountiful and best because of the price and quality of garden produce being sold there. In Popondetta town market you will find heaps and bundles of garden foodstuffs that would be as big or more to that of the size you find in other town and city markets around the country.
However, my first visit to Oro was quite a long time ago but would still reflect its memories in telling stories to friends about the fertile soil and the cheap garden produce.
For something as significant about a person or place it will always remind you of the memories and that is what the Oro is doing to me. By the way, in my recent visit to Oro in February, 2021.
Much has changed over the 25 years after I left the province in 1995.
To my amazement, the central town part of it has gone through major revamp and developments as a result of the good work of the incumbent Governor Garry Juffa and the foreign entrepreneurs.
Garry Juffa has done a tremendous job in changing the image of his province as much as possible.
This was evident through many infrastructural developments that has taken place over the years with others that are still in progress.
From what I saw, streets were widened up, walkways were constructed and bus stop shelters have been erected within the town areas.
Abandoned heavy machineries, cars and other heavier rubbish of eyesore sight that were left there for ages have been removed or buried and were no more in sight.
According to Anama Kamo – a Goilala man who is working as one of the city authority worker, working under the Popondetta Town Mayor Nigel Willie said there were about eight locals including himself were engaged as city rangers where they concentrated and focus on dumping and burying unburnable rubbish and metals. Doing general clean up and weeding or cutting down tall grass within the town and their designated areas of work and surveillance while other groups are concentrating on their specialised area.
Kamo and his colleagues also work on a daily basis in maintaining the cleanliness and upkeep of the town image – keeping watch out for any litters.
The city rangers are doing their bit while the Northern Governor does his bit.
A combined effort has seen Popondetta town has gone through massive changes over the time and the town image is no longer as several decades ago. Honestly speaking Popondetta town is in a more impressive stage with a lot of remarkable changes being evident.
On the other hand, thanks to the foreign entrepreneurs who have made their share of development contribution to the province in setting up major supermarkets that added glamour to the town image and are as another lot of landmarks – bringing great change to Popondetta town image.
Another two latest developments that are as added landmarks to the province is the setup of the National Development Bank (NDB) Popondetta office and the construction of the new Oro Kava Market near the intersection of Kokoda and Oro Bay Highway.
For a person who had been to Oro decades back l would tell you the town image and infrastructures had gone through a massive change and is not like what it used to be decades back. As for the recent redevelopment work on the Girua Airport. It is indeed a marvelous and state of the art facilities that are of high standard compared to other smaller airport facilities around the country.
You will be surprised with the recent state of the art Girua Airport facilities if you happen to travel to Popondetta anytime. As for me it was indeed a big surprise for me in my recent visit to the Oro capital in Feb, 2021.
As the song of a Madang musician goes, “ Swit blo Oro Kaiva Iand i holim pasim lewa blo mi” l don’t know how soon l will come back to the city of many eyesore people and activities is unknown at this stage.